Hundreds of mourners gather for funeral of Co Down hurler Pearce Branagan
MOURNERS at the funeral of a Co Down GAA player who collapsed and died from a suspected heart attack heard how he lived by the treasured quotation, 'live as if you will die today, dream as if you will live forever'.
As hundreds of people gathered to say farewell to Pearce Branagan at St John’s, Ballymaghery, near Hilltown yesterday mourners heard how the keen sportsman strived to achieve and live life to the full despite being born with a heart defect.
The 23 year-old trainee teacher is understood to have suffered a cardiac seizure last Saturday.
But Fr Feidhlimidh Magennis told the congregation the senior hurler for Clonduff GAC "did not let the limitations of his heart condition limit his dreams and his contribution to those around him".
Team-mates from Clonduff GAC wore club jerseys to the Requiem Mass, taking to the altar to pay tribute to him during the service, while others donned bright colours to celebrate the life of the young sportsman.
Fr Magennis, Clonduff parish assistant priest, who taught Mr Branagan at St Mary’s University College, said his death "has struck us dumb with shock".
"Pearce started at St Mary’s five years ago and we have fond memories of a student who strived to achieve," he said.
"He threw himself into his work and also into the hurling club, giving his all. He was the kind of person who found time for all sorts of activities and friends, both in college and here at home.
"He brightened the place with a warm smile and showed generosity of spirit."
The priest read aloud the quotation that Mr Branagan's used as his "vision for life" and said: "How much was he aware that today, these words would sum up his life?
"I think he grasped their meaning because he learned it in the heart of your family."
Fr Magennis said in Mr Branagan's "short life, he lived each day to the full".
"And he dreamed of living the fullness of life also - of becoming a teacher, of finding a soul-mate, of winning something in hurling," he said.
He also said Mr Branagan had "dreams and he trusted, despite his frailty, that he could achieve them".
"He did not let the limitations of his heart condition limit his dreams and his contribution to those around him," he said.
Mourners also heard the priest describe how Mr Branagan had a "big smile to light up a room and behind that smile was a big heart".
"A big heart takes the burden off others and puts them at ease. A big heart has space for so many people - family, team-mates, class-mates, soul-mate," Fr Magennis said.
"This physical heart of ours has its limits as Pearce knew only so well. But that did not define him.
"His heart grew big enough to embrace so much of life: it grew until perhaps it could hold no more."